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Should The Boy Scouts of America have a centennial commemorative?

The Centennial of the Boy Scouts of America (1910) is the subject of the Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 5872) by U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Dallas, TX) which was introduced on April 22, 2008.

It already has over 287 co-sponsors, many of whom were scouts in their youth and are holders of the Eagle Scout Award, the organizations highest youth honor.

The bill would also extract a surcharge on the coin’s sale to be passed along to a BSA-controlled foundation.

Now, in general, I am quite in favor of the modern commemorative program started in 1982. It has helped honor several good organizations such as the U.S.O., the Special Olympics, and the National Prisoner of War Museum among others. I also must say that I have not bought any of these modern commemoratives save the first, the 1982 George Washington half dollar.

Generally I would be quite in favor of a commemorative coin for the centennial of the BSA – after all, I have been a member for 40 years! As a youth I earned the Eagle Scout Award, as an adult I served the community as a troop scoutmaster for 14 years. I have been honored by the Queens Council with the Silver Beaver Award. In 2002 I spearheaded a committee that re-wrote the Coin Collecting Merit Badge booklet and since 1981 I have organized the American Numismatic Association’s participation with a Coin Collecting Merit Badge booth on the Merit Badge Midway at the National Scout Jamborees (seven of them and counting!).

So, why would I be against a Scouting Centennial coin?

Well, I am against the scouting centennial coin program because the BSA has poised itself as a “private membership organization” and discriminates in its membership; and therefore I do not think that government funds should be going to such a group.

These discrimination issues revolve around God, Gays, and Girls.

In the world of international scouting, the program as evolved in the United States – as two distinct groups – the BSA and the GSUSA. In most of the other 180 or so countries which have a scouting program, girls and boys participate under one national organization.

The Scouting program has had to re-invent itself over the past 25 years to further the perception of maintaining membership numbers, while serving the “public” by being inclusive, yet exclusive against others.

A program once available to older Scouts, called Explorers, has been morphed into two entities, Venture Scouting in the traditional Scouting program, and Career Interest Exploring of the “Learning for Life division,” a separate group from BSA which can receive United Way and other civic (financial) support.

Several large church groups – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints among them, which use the Scouting program at their youth program – exert tremendous amount of influence on the subject of gay (youth and adult) membership exclusion.

Over the years a large amount of resources have gone toward defending the policies of membership discrimination. The national office has long fought to exclude gay leaders (BSA vs Dale even went to the Supreme Court). Local councils have been losing funds and use of municipal property.

This excessive protection of membership guidelines takes away resources of expertise and funds from delivering a program that is worthwhile -a program which gives young people the opportunity to learn in an outdoor setting and develop the leadership skills in the next generation.